by Annalisa Peace
Executive Director, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance
You may recall that in February we alerted you about SB 471 by Senator Springer, one of the meanest bills we have ever seen. This bill directs the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to charge a person who files a complaint for the cost of the investigation if, in the same calendar year in which the complaint is filed, the person has filed at least three complaints with TCEQ.
Persistent citizen complaints often indicate that the problem has not been fixed. For example, for four months, residents of the Grove subdivision at Vintage Oaks, a suburb of New Braunfels, complained to TCEQ about “a horrible sewer, rotten egg, sulfur, and feces smell” emanating from the Vintage Oaks wastewater treatment. According to one resident, the smell “permeates our homes, sinks, stove, air vents, shower drains, and toilets. It is so bad that you can smell it off Interstate 46.” GEAA’s research shows intermittent complaints about foul odors coming from this plant had been registered since 2019 to 2023. Many of these folks filed more than three complaints each year.
From information found in the TCEQ Central Registry, we deduce that the cause of repeated complaints is often be due to the fact that the problems occasioning complaints have not been addressed and, in certain cases, have not yet even been investigated prior to TCEQ closing the complaint file. To assess fees based upon the status of TCEQ’s complaint file, rather than the actual resolution of the source of repeated complaints, seems arbitrary and, frankly, a cruel practice to be foisted upon the citizens of Texas.
The goal of the TCEQ is clean air, clean water, and safe management of waste in order to protect the state’s public health and natural resources.
According to TCEQ’s web site, “Through the implementation of monitoring, permitting, and enforcement operations, TCEQ strives to provide effective customer service and outreach in order to foster strong public engagement and stewardship across the state for the protection and preservation of our natural resources.”
SB 471 jeopardizes the public engagement TCEQ needs to continue to meet its mission by proposing the public be charged fees for submitting complaints about issues that were never addressed in the first place. GEAA would urge the denial of SB 471. You can read GEAA’s comments here.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 10th at 9:am, the House Committee on Environmental Regulation will consider SB 471. If you wish to attend and deliver comments in-person the meeting will be held in room E2.010.
Texas residents who wish to electronically submit comments related to agenda items on this notice without testifying in person can do so until the hearing is adjourned by visiting:
You can call or e-mail the committee members to register your opposition to SB 471:
Chair: Rep. Brooks Landgraf – email@example.com 512-463-0546
Vice Chair: Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra – firstname.lastname@example.org 512-463-0578
Rep. Keith Bell – email@example.com 512-463-0564
Rep. Jay Dean – firstname.lastname@example.org 512-463-0750
Rep. John Kuempel – email@example.com 512-463-0602
Rep. Janie Lopez – Janie.firstname.lastname@example.org 512-463-0640
Rep. Thresa “Terry” Meza – email@example.com 512-463-0641
Rep. Penny Morales Shaw – firstname.lastname@example.org 512-463-0620
Rep Ron Reynolds – email@example.com 512-463-0494
Many thanks in advance to those of you who weigh in on this stinker.